Luxor delivers straight-up Match-3 marble popping…if that’s what you want

Posted: August 18, 2009 in Arcade, Puzzle

Marble popping games are one of the few categories that inherently work best on a mobile device which explains the seeming onslaught of such titles. With its Egyptian theme and Middle Eastern soundtrack, Luxor was a game I played growing on my old Mac Performa, and seeing it released on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, I was naturally feeling a little jazzed about it. The game plays just like I remember, which for the most part means this is a great game. But at the same time, it also feels pretty dated compared to today’s games such as Stoneloops! and Atlantis Sky Patrol which add extra game compelling elements. If you’re looking for nostalgia or online play within a polished and well-presented game that has stood the test of time, Luxor will be right up your alley.

The storyline is that the Egyptian goddess Isis needs your help to battle the god Set who is intent on destroying Egypt. Of course, the task involves balls rolling down the track, and shooting colored balls to create matches in order to clear them from the board. The game has 88 levels that take you through various Ancient Egyptian cities. Progress is tracked on a larger map, and you cannot go back to previously completed level. Graphically, the game presents tracks in various layouts with a notable Egyptian montage along with a melodic Middle Eastern soundtrack. The vibrantly colored balls roll smoothly along the tracks and the animation looks great.

A winged shooter is located at the bottom of the screen with three control options: aim and tap to shoot, aim and release to shoot, and tilt and tap. The intuitive controls work smoothly and the animation is lag free on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0. The game also has a variety of mystical ball power ups such as kaleidoscope, fireballs, lightning ray and reverser among others. Ankh coins and gems are randomly dropped via matches that you can be collected with the shooter for points. By collecting 30 coins, an additional life is earned.

One of the great things about Luxor are the feats which are achievements for meeting certain milestones such as completing levels without a life, matching large chains of balls, creating chain reactions, and catching bonuses through various levels. It provides a good degree, although they tend to be relatively easy to achieve. As with any marble shooter, the game becomes more difficult with the addition of more different colored balls, and creating matching chains and combos will earn more points.

As I mentioned, the track layouts become more elaborate which is really where the fun begins. The early stages are simple and straightforward but later tracks are more windy and layered on top of each other. This is where lies part of the dilemma for me because in general, the gameplay can be repetitious. That may sound strange for this type of game, but there really aren’t any additional elements (e.g. mini-puzzles or additional objectives) other than clearing balls.

While the gameplay requires a certain amount of quick thinking to match and clear balls and collect coins for additional lives, that pretty much sums up the entire game. What Luxor does, it does well, but when you look at Stoneloops! and Atlantis Sky Patrol, there are other elements that add to the gameplay whether it’s building out a house or destroying engines to stop the flow of balls. This becomes a valid point when reviewing this game in terms of gameplay, which can become monotonous.

Having said that, Luxor is definitely a polished and solid game, and if you enjoy puzzlers and Match-3s, then it’s a must have. If you grew up playing Luxor and want to relive the nostalgia, then it’s a must have. However, when it comes to variety in gameplay and offering different objectives, I’m not so enamored with Luxor that I’ll overlook other available titles that offer a bit more.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (polished game delivers fun gameplay for straight marble popping; gameplay can be simple and repetitious for some, and the game could use additional elements)

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